No matter how slick the new hardware is or how hard BlackBerry strives
to convince us that its new BB10 handsets are the cat’s meow, there’s
still one massive stumbling block–quality apps. Apparently even the
BlackBerry faithful agree and intrepid tweakers have stepped in to fix
the situation themselves.
Read on to learn how you can quickly take advantage of free
BlackBerry 10 apps that others have kindly ported from
Android. Best of all the entire process takes minutes and loading apps to your Z10 or Q10 just a matter of seconds.
Gather your tools
So here’s what you’ll need to get started; A BlackBerry 10 smartphone, either Z10 or Q10. A windows or
Mac with Google’s Chrome browser installed. A Wi-Fi network that both can connect to.
Put your BlackBerry 10 device into Development Mode.
Prepare your BlackBerry
The first step is to flip your BlackBerry 10 phone into developer mode.
Within the BlackBerry Hub or any home screen grab the pull-down menu
from the top of the display. Click Settings, Security and Privacy, then
tap Development Mode. From there switch on Development Mode by hitting
the software switch next to “Use Development Mode”.
A word of caution here. You will be prompted to choose and enter a
Development Mode password before the setting kicks into effect. Make
sure to create one that’s easy to remember or write it down somewhere.
PlayBook App Manager to the rescue
Now you’ll want to fire up your computer’s Google Chrome browser and
download the main software tool you’ll be using. Head over to the Chrome
app store, search for an app called the PlayBook App Manager, then
download and install it. This works for Chrome on both Macs and PCs by
Download the PlayBook App Manager from the Chrome Store.
Next grab hold of your BlackBerry 10 phone, in my case I used the
BlackBerry Z10, and confirm that both it and your computer are linked to
the same Wi-Fi network. After this you’ll have to find out what the IP
address of your BlackBerry is. To be clear, this is not to be confused
with the Development Mode IP address–trust me, both CNET Editor/Labs
guru Joseph Kaminski made this mistake initially.
Record the IP Address of your handset.
You’ll find the correct IP address listed under System Settings, About,
then within the Network category. Punch this IP address number into the
PlayBook App Manager window provided and click save. If you get a
warning about SSL certificate errors throw caution to the wind and
You should now see the correct IP address for your device listed under
the “Manage your device” heading. Clicking the number will launch a list
of all the applications currently installed on your phone.
Find an app you want
From flying people enmass out to BlackBerry Live in Orlando, Florida to
offering a host of cross-platform dev tools, BlackBerry has recently
been pulling out all the stops to get developers jazzed about BB10. As a
result numerous websites have cropped up that offer catalogs of Android
apps convert from native “.apk” files to the “.bar” extension
digestible by BlackBerry 10 gadgets.
I discovered two locations, Androidbars.net
through the recommendations of BlackBerry devs in the know, and some
quick sleuthing on my own. One of my big pet peeves with BB10 is the
lack of a good news aggregator such as Flipboard Google Currents. That’s
why I was besides myself with glee when I found the Flipboard
BlackBerry port displayed front and center at both sites.
I just downloaded the Flipboard.bar file to a handy PC directory, plus a
few more for good measure–namely Netflix and Google Maps. With my
virtual bag stuffed with goodies I ready to have some real fun.
Dragging and dropping is all it takes.
Load up your BlackBerry
I had kept the Chrome browser window open with the PlayBook App Manager
but it’s a good idea to bookmark it right after you secure a successful
BlackBerry/PC connection. The next and final significant step is to drag
and drop the .bar app file you downloaded into the list of applications
the PlayBook App Manager sees.
After this, the handy software tool began installing the app to my Z10
as indicated by a progress bar in the upper left corner. It’s as easy as
that, really. You can even watch the app materialize in the phone’s app
tray as it’s installing. Believe me when I say people on the
surrounding floors could hear my hoots of joy when I successfully
launched Flipboard, complete with smooth magazine-style animations.
This is no panacea
I have to point out that while this hack sounds like a huge win for
current and potential BlackBerry users, other parts of my experience say
otherwise. The Netflix app I installed was functional but buggy with
stutters navigating my library and frequent crashes. Also frustrating
was that one version of the Instagram app I loaded refused to sign me in
to my account or open at all.
Now I know that I shouldn’t be surprised by flaky software, especially
when using tinkered code such as this. Still it’s always painful when
hope soars then slams back to the ground floor of ecosystem reality.